When my sister told me she’d be coming to visit for her 23rd birthday and wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner, I consulted my restaurant to-do list, read reviews, asked friends, compared menus and instead of picking one, I sent her a list of five places to choose from.
She was picky as a child and still not a very adventurous eater today, so I wasn’t surprised when she passed on my exotic options like Malaysian, Korean and Lebanese and instead went for the one Italian restaurant on the list.
Italian food is safe, I’m sure she assumed. Nothing weird about a bowl of pasta, right?
But where we went was anything but your usual Italian restaurant. Babbo, Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village take on Italian food, was creative, inventive and bold in flavor and personality— not the place to go to for a safe plate of spaghetti and meatballs. And while the ingredients were Italian, you won’t find the dishes you fell in love with on that last trip across the pond. Everything at Babbo (Tuscan slang for daddy) was unlike anything else anywhere else.
My sister was a little hesitant and her boyfriend, who I found out just that night is a seriously picky eater, looked on the verge of breaking out into a nervous sweat. Meanwhile me and my boyfriend debated back and forth on what to get, excitedly pointing out different menu items and listening with rapt attention as the waiter described the specials for the night.
To my sister and her boyfriend’s horror, Flaneur started things off with a lamb’s tongue antipasto. Soft, diced tongue was mixed around in a heap of Chanterelle mushrooms, all of it cooked to an earthy brown color and a smooth consistency. Resting on top was a “3-minute” egg (i.e. a poached egg that’s boiled for no more than three minutes) which when poked with a fork, oozed with runny, orange yolk. It had a pungent, almost sour taste which I thought was delicious for a couple of forkfuls but then became almost overwhelming. My sister and her boyfriend watched in disgust as we cleaned the plate.